30 Years of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman: “Shah Rukh Khan used to stay in our office. He used to ask for Campa Cola. We would tell him, ‘Yahan nahin milti. Yeh Delhi nahin hai. Yeh Bombay hai. Yahaan Thums Up milti hai’!” – Manoj Lalwani
On Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman’s 30th anniversary, Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to Manoj Lalwani, the writer of the film and also a part of the direction team, revealed some unknown trivia about the film and its lead actor.
You were an assistant director on TV shows like ‘Circus’ and ‘Nukkad’. How did you get involved in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman?
So, Shah Rukh Khan began working on ‘Fauji’. This was the time when we were supposed to do a series for the government of India. It was based on the banking system and was called ‘Umeed’. It had two episodes and a director named Vikas Desai was supposed to direct it. They needed a new guy to play the lead role of the banker. We were young and were aware of Shah Rukh and his popularity after ‘Fauji’. I and our associate, Pushkar Singh, told Aziz and his brother Saeed Mirza about him. However, Shah Rukh was in Delhi. Aziz and Saeed didn’t like the idea of calling an actor from a different city for a two-episode series. We reasoned that he’s a very popular actor and that he’s apt for the part. They agreed.
The production team called up Shah Rukh. He informed them that he’ll fly down to Mumbai by air. Those were the times when a return flight to Mumbai would cost Rs. 5000, a very huge amount then. Aziz immediately rejected him on hearing this request. He argued, ‘Bombay mein actors nahin hai kya?’! But somehow, we all convinced them. Even Kundan Shah recommended him.
Shah Rukh came to Mumbai and everyone became his fan. He also did ‘Circus’ with us. He used to stay in our office. One boy used to take care of him and provide him with meals and cigarettes. He used to ask for Campa Cola. We would tell him, ‘Yahan nahin milti. Yeh Delhi nahin hai. Yeh Bombay hai. Yahaan Thums Up milti hai’! Soon, he became like family.
After completing ‘Circus’, he came in touch with Viveck Vaswani, who in turn, introduced him to G P Sippy who offered him a film. Shah Rukh recommended that Aziz Mirza should direct the film.
One day, Aziz bhai took me to Carter Road in his car and asked me if I have any story. I told him of a plot of a man who comes from a small town. It was inspired a bit by my life since I hail from Bhopal. When someone comes to a metropolis from a small town, he has dreams in his eyes and wants to conquer the world. But then reality strikes. This was the idea I had and as we discussed, we kept developing it. We then narrated it to G P Sippy saab and even Ramesh Sippy saab.
Also, Aziz bhai had a struggle of his own. He was an actor and then he became a transporter for a few years. But he was an artist first. He later became a production person and at the age of 50, he got a chance to direct a TV series. So, he had a long struggle and experience which he incorporated into the film.
The dialogues of the film were quite witty…
There were a couple of people for the dialogues. Nana Patekar’s dialogues were written by Hriday Lani. He had also written Salaam Bombay (1988). Both Nana and Hriday had a great bond. And Nana was like a sutradhar of sorts. Those dialogues were written by him. On the set, we also tweaked some dialogues. Charandas Shokh had also penned the dialogues. He died by the film was released. He was quite ill. So, I was told to take over. I was from Bhopal; my language was better. I had also done some rewriting on Nukkad.
The scene where Nana Patekar predicts how Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Patekar would react is hilarious and very memorable…
That scene is inspired by my real-life love story! Opposite my office, there used to be this girl and we used to interact that way. There was no other way as social media didn’t exist then. Toh hum ishaaro mein baat karte the. The scene in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman was an extension of it. We thought of this idea that Nana Patekar would predict their next move since his character has had a vast experience of life.
There was this scene where Juhi injures her leg while Shah Rukh’s shoe is torn. Juhi assumes that Shah Rukh is imitating her. That scene was thought on the spot. We had a cobbler on the set. Aziz bhai had this thing. He would always cast have-nots in his film or have those kinds of characters. Like in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, there was a band wallah, a small restaurant owner and a vagabond character, played by Nana Patekar. This is because Aziz bhai has led that life. And the names – Kundu, Dagdu – were also real-life names.
The climax shot of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman was very similar to the famous ‘Palat’ scene of Yash Raj Films’ (YRF) Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Many have noticed the similarities and call the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge scene a copy…
They (YRF) were 100% inspired. This was a time when Shah Rukh was in talks to do Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Its director Aditya Chopra used to come on the sets although he was not present when we shot the ‘Palat’ scene. Also, Aziz bhai gave the idea from the scene. As I said, he has lived the life and he has seen people in Mumbai saying, ‘Ab yeh paltega ya paltegi’. Interestingly, again, we had spontaneously thought of adding this scene. We started shooting the scene in actual rain. But it stopped raining after sometime. We got a rain machine and we had to complete the scene and show something interesting. And we only had that one day to finish the portion. This is how Aziz bhai got the idea.
Such improvisations help a lot, especially when there are competent people on the set. Aaj kal boundscript ki baat karte hai log lekin usme kahan utna scope hota hai improvisation ka? Lekin yeh purane log scene ko acche se jamaa dete the.
What was the budget of the film? And how much were you and Shah Rukh Khan paid?
The budget of the film was just Rs. 80 lakhs. Shah Rukh, I think, was paid Rs. 50,000. I was paid Rs. 25,000 to write the film. An additional Rs. 15,000 I was paid as I was an associate director. I don’t remember the exact figure.
How was it working with Nana Patekar?
Nana Patekar used to not talk to anyone. But somehow, we got along very well. I have green eyes and according to him, my face was similar to those who are from the Chitpavan Brahmin community in Pune. He would tell me, “Tu Pune ka Brahmin lagta hai”. I would reply, “Lekin main toh kabhi Pune gaya hi nahin!” He used to pick me up and take me to the sets. Our shoot used to majorly take place in Mukesh Mills, Colaba. I stayed close by, in Andheri Lokhandwala. Aziz bhai had told me, “Tu hi iske saath rehna”. Aziz bhai used to make me sit with him in the room and tell me to go through the scene with him. This is because Nana was very particular about his dialogue, punctuation etc. He would have many questions about what is his character saying, why is he saying this dialogue etc. He would memorize not just his but also the dialogues of the other characters in the scene.
It is said that Manisha Koirala was the first choice for the female lead and not Juhi Chawla. Is that true?
No. Juhi was always the first choice. I remember I had gone to her house with Aziz bhai and Viveck Vaswani. She was shooting for Bol Radha Bol (1992). She had come straight from the shoot and was in her costume. Shah Rukh was Juhi’s fan. In Delhi, he had put up her posters in his room! It was a dream come true for him to work with him. Juhi meanwhile was like ‘Yeh kaisa hero hai. Iske baal kaise hai, iske naak kaisi hai. Isko kaise main hero karke le rahe ho’! Shah Rukh didn’t have conventional looks but he had a very attractive personality. He drew people towards him. I remember during ‘Circus’, we shot in an actual circus tent. Outside the circus gate, youngsters ki bheed hoti thi, khaas kar ladkiyon ki! They all wanted Shah Rukh Khan’s autograph. Shah Rukh ko Mumbai aaye 4 din bhi nahin hue the and this was his popularity. Some of the biggest stars used to look at the crowd and wonder, ‘Yeh aadmi ka aisa kya jadoo hai’. Toh Shah Rukh likha ke hi laaya tha!
Shah Rukh Khan once said in an event that the first time he ever saw himself on screen was when he checked the rushes of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. He said, “I found myself so ugly. I had such bad hair. I was doing such bad acting in front of Nana Patekar, Amrita Singh and Juhi Chawla”. Were you there when this happened?
I wasn’t there but we all liked him. I felt he looked like Rajendra Kumar.
It is reported that Shah Rukh Khan got married during the shoot of the film and borrowed suits from the film's costume department for the wedding…
Yes. He got married in Delhi. Then, he had his honeymoon in Darjeeling. We also accompanied Shah Rukh and Gauri as we had to shoot his intro scene in the film. I still remember the whole crew had travelled in train in second class. It was a difficult, 36-hour journey. I was lucky as Aziz bhai asked me to join him, Shah Rukh and Gauri on the flight.
So yeah, Shah Rukh ka honeymoon Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman ke production ke khaate pe hua! It was quite cold in Darjeeling. There was no heater in Shah Rukh’s room. Aziz bhai and I were in the same room. We had a heater and we gave it to Shah Rukh and Gauri.
Did you visit cinema halls to check the audience's reaction?
Yes. We had gone to Gaiety-Galaxy. Viewers used to clap at Nana Patekar’s scenes and laugh. We were confident that the film will be a hit. Sadly, the communal riots took place 3 weeks later and hence, our film didn’t have a long run as curfew was in place in several centres. It was our bad luck. Thankfully, the film was well-made and hence, people still remember it and talk about it.
It seemed you formed a bond with Shah Rukh Khan as you wrote two more films for him, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000) and One 2 Ka 4 (2001)…
Yes. I had begun working with Sanjay Chhel. He wrote Aziz bhai’s Yes Boss (1997) and I couldn’t be a part of it as I was busy with my productions. Then, when Aziz bhai’s Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’s scripting was going on, I had the time and came on board and worked with Shah Rukh, Sanjay Chhel and Aziz bhai.
Can you tell us about the projects you are working on right now?
I have written a show and have submitted it to a production house. I am also writing a feature film. It’s on the verge of completion. I am in talks for it. I also made a Gujarati film and TV shows. Besides, I wrote Salman Khan’s Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye (2000) and Akshaye Khanna’s Shortkut - The Con Is On (2009).
Are you still in touch with Shah Rukh Khan and Aziz Mirza?
I am in touch with Aziz bhai. With Shah Rukh, I am not much in touch. He got busy with his work while I was involved with my films and shows.
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